<strong>August 2, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.pe.com/sports/football/stories/PE_Sports_Local_D_merriman_02.e22ff0a.html">The Press Enterprise</a>
SAN DIEGO - In the first couple of months since being picked 12th in the NFL draft, Shawne Merriman was the Chargers' missing link: sitting out both mini-camps in a disagreement over injury protection, and missing the first week of training camp while waiting for a contract to be negotiated.
Merriman's wait is over. The pass rusher from Maryland, who recorded 85 tackles and 8 "½ sacks for the Terps last season, agreed to a five-year, $15.73 million deal with the Chargers on Monday.
"We've been working on it all along, and the fact that camp had started and other clubs were getting contracts done I'm pretty sure had something to do with it," said his agent, Kevin Poston, by phone.
Merriman's deal includes base pay of $11.33 million, $9 million of which is guaranteed, Poston said. There is also an escalator clause in the fifth year of the deal that could earn Merriman $4.4 million if he meets certain standards in playing time and sacks and reaches the Pro Bowl.
The deal is actually worth a little more than that signed by the player picked in front of him, defensive end Demarcus Ware, who signed for five years and $13 million with Dallas as the No. 11 selection. The No. 13 pick, offensive tackle Jammal Brown, signed with New Orleans for five years and $11 million.
Merriman's status was complicated by his absence at the club's mini-camps, when Poston -- retained after Merriman fired his original agent, Gary Wichard -- determined that the Chargers' injury protection for an unsigned player wasn't sufficient.
That disagreement, along with Poston's reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator and the Chargers' own reputation for taking a hard line, suggested a difficult, protracted negotiation.
"People thought there was going to be a line in the sand," Chargers general manager A. J. Smith said.
Instead, once the talks began in earnest two weeks ago, they went smoothly.
"Of all the negotiations I've been involved in, this was the quickest, most professional, most efficient I've been around," Smith said.
Now the question is how quickly it will take to get Merriman up to speed with the Chargers' system, especially since Merriman -- who played defensive end in college -- likely will start out as an outside linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme.
"I'd say he's missed a lot, especially since he's a rookie," linebacker Steve Foley said. "He's new to this, and there's going to be some adjustments, some things he has to learn. The faster he picks it up, the better off he'll be."
Coach Marty Schottenheimer declined to speculate on how much ground Merriman needs to make up.
"Let's let it unfold," he said. "The responsibility now shifts to us as a staff to get him ready."